It takes a specific type of person to envision, find resources, and build an organization. These individuals load themselves with financial obligations and constantly deal with accumulating unknowns. This person will be independent first and foremost and constantly driven to create and build. In addition to overseeing themselves, they invite others to join with them as equals, although, in truth, the equality is never quite the same. Only the leader of leaders has the persistence of vision necessary to keep the gears of the organization turning.
I’ve used these many essays to describe the leader of leaders and their sub-leaders in depth. I’ve also shared some conclusions as to why the sub-leaders fail to carry on with the organization after the prime leader leaves. Still, I wanted to know if the departing leader was the problem or if people who are not self-driven are unable or unwilling to step into full and responsible ownership of the organization they’ve inherited. Perhaps, ownership and its responsibilities for what the leader of leaders has built is terrifying to most people. Or they prefer being a part of an inner circle rather than a leader of an organization. Like everything in life, there is no single answer.
I must build for us—Not for me, you, but many—Will you take what I build?
All people that must be themselves will do what they must to be independent. But there is a different independent person with a worldview in contrast to those with only a self-view. Both are driven to be themselves regardless, but the rare worldview individual builds for themselves and others. They become the leaders of the sub-leaders within their organizations, giving them everything possible to facilitate their growth as people and leaders.
I believe I have covered the leader of leaders concept thoroughly, to the point of redundancy. If so, forgive me, as the subject greatly intrigues me. If what I have written is clear, I am satisfied. I do not seek agreement in any of the things I write about. I firmly believe in experience, and I have been blessed to have had many of them. In exploring this subject, experience played a powerful role. How else can I explain why nothing exists of our work beyond memories and, of course, what we learned from all those dynamic interactions?
I believe the answer is found by understanding how unique a leader of leaders is. They are the ones who dream and bring their dreams to life. They build for themselves and others real and often substantial organizations. While some do this for profit, others do it for the good of society. Naturally, some do it for both. As I’ve previously explained, when these prime leaders disappear, the organizations they’ve built follow soon after that.
As far as Lenette and I are concerned, we’ve benefited from all the many wonderful children, staff, and adults we worked with over many years. Although our organizations ceased to exist without us, we are grateful beyond words, and our lives have been enriched immeasurably because of the remarkable people we have known.
The “leader of leaders” concept is crucial to me if I am to fully understand myself as a person and as a leader. Also, I’m hopeful it will influence other leaders to examine their leadership.
At my age, I’m now asking questions I had never considered before. I would have benefited from the answers, whether they were to my liking or not. So, if you believe you are a leader of leaders, you should ask the leaders you’ve created about you as a person and leader. If you are trusted, and they feel safe and secure, they will answer you honestly. If not, they are still sending a loud and clear message.
Here are questions I ask today that I should have asked back in the early 50s: How am I as your leader? Do I listen when you talk? Do you feel understood? Do I confirm, or have I confirmed what you say? Each of these questions, if answered honestly, will or should help any leader to be a better leader.
I answer for myself, but if I had done this as a young leader of leaders, I would have been the best leader I was capable of being. Now, only in hindsight do I realize I was a role model. To know this and fail at the job is a gigantic mistake I fully understand today. At present, I believe I do understand quality leadership and appreciate how rare it is. Over the years, being a good student, I strived to improve my leadership skills. When I went to the plate, I always went for the wall. I still do.
I had many choices offered to me as a young man and chose the most difficult; being in my own business, hiring and training staff, and selling a philosophy of education and recreation. I must believe it was and still is my desire to be independent.
Most leaders are “made” as adults and do not come to this through the process of growing up and being lucky enough to have good parenting. On the other hand, the leader of leaders is nurtured throughout their childhood to be as much themselves as possible. Their parents are aware that they need to feed, clean, love, and protect their child, but that the child is its own person and not a lump of clay to be molded and shaped as they, the parents, wish their child to be. This is never easy to do. Wanting the best for one’s child is the desire of every parent. Yet, wanting this for the child has its way of having force.
So, parents simply by being parents have a powerful say in their children’s becoming what and who they become. Still, influence and power come from other sources too. These include extended family, school, friends, and those serendipitous events to which I often refer. Hence, growing into a unique self is complex. And growing into being oneself is an equal mix of miracles and accidents.
So, whether you agree with me or not, I believe those who are “made leaders” do not express themselves at all costs and, because of their inability to do so, cannot become leaders of leaders. They lack a creator’s drive, while leaders of leaders have an abundance of it. I argue that many organizations fail or disappear when the prime leader leaves. It matters not why they go, but without a true leader of leaders serving as an umbrella and resource for the “made leaders,” there is no drive for innovation and growth. I also feel that training people to be prime leaders is a hopeless journey. Leaders of leaders exist because a child grows up in an environment that nurtures uniqueness and self without being selfish. If formal education could do the job, families and the world would be far better off.
The leader of leaders selects their sub-leaders because they are good at what they do. They are students, potential teachers and have a similar philosophy with the prime leader. This is particularly important. They want to learn, grow, communicate, and desire a level playing field with others and their subordinates. These characteristics are what attract the leader to leaders to them. From this group of potential leaders, the prime leader creates their inner circle, selecting the best of the best.
And these new sub-leaders, in particular those that make the inner circle, are the ones who appear to be ideal for the prime leader’s position if and when they leave the organization. This can happen for any number of reasons, and how good it appears that there is a method to grow the appropriate leadership and then leave it in their hands with a working and successful philosophy.
But here is where the past comes into play. Newbie leaders rarely, if ever, become prime leaders. Whether the organization built by the leader of leaders continues as it is, is not likely. My experience is painfully clear. Everything Lenette and I created disappeared within a few years of leaving it, even though we assigned other excellent leaders to continue leading the organization. I believe this occurs because the prime leader is first and foremost themselves. Creating organizations and becoming a leader of others is what they do. It’s how they see the world.
I suggest that employees or others connected to the leader of leaders benefit from that relationship. They have a “role model” who teaches through being who and what they are and not necessarily through any awareness on their part. I suspect that most prime leaders are not aware of what they do as role models, but only that they are committed to honest relationships and a level playing field with the people in their life.
These complex revelations occurred to me full-blown about a month ago. The people that become sub-leaders become so because of their relationship with the leader of leaders. This relationship happens for two reasons: The prime leader wants it, and the person becoming a sub-leader knows their stuff and, with the help and protection of the LOL, accepts this responsibility.
And now, the problem I discovered: The person that undertakes the role of a sub-leader as an adult usually does not have a history as a self-determined person who has been oneself. Our prime leader has never been anything else. Without the aid and nurturing of the prime leader, the sub-leaders do not become leaders by themselves. The battles they lost as children leave too many scars and memories, and without a strong role model to help them overcome their past, it will not happen.
The battle as a child to keep one’s own voice to follow one’s own developing path is an uneven one, and the great majority of humans give in. But I do not believe the “self “is gone. It is set aside, hopefully, to be rediscovered through meeting with a leader of leaders. Being good at what you do, being honest, being a student, and the many serendipitous events make this a possibility.
The true Leader is, first and foremost, themselves and will remain so through all of life’s challenges. But being themselves is not enough. They desire this for those who are close to them. They would love to see this worldwide for everyone, but they realize it is impossible. These unique self-driven people build their own organizations where the people they employ become part of an environment that provides every opportunity for all of them to grow as themselves.
We see this in their family and their extensive relationships with others. Being oneself is vital to them. Yet, these leaders are a minority of a minority. Most self-driven people do not care whether other people are themselves or not. It is enough for them to fight their own battles to be themselves.
So, I suggest there are two types of independent people. The vast majority of these are concerned with only themselves and value self-involvement over relations. They do not build environments where others can grow, but only what they need to be themselves. The second group is a minority, which I see myself as being a part of. They want their freedom but are also inclusive, so they build organizations.
Leaders are made and selected from the group that joins this type of leader’s organization. But they are not leaders in the same sense as the prime leader. The leader of leaders creates an environment where their employees discover their voice and grow into leadership roles. These are not leaders of leaders but leaders underneath the umbrella and protection of the prime leader. These other leaders may be superb but rarely are they the leader of leaders.
Being oneself requires an inner drive, and there is no changing It once you are on that road. Along that road, one encounters the mysteries of our life. We do not make it happen, even if we think we do. Others provide the environment in which we are nurtured to be or not to be, to meet and be what others want us to be. We are the clay, and our initial caregivers are the clay makers.
There is a push and a pull that dictates to us, and we are without the tools to do anything about this. Being entirely dependent and knowing (or not) that we are helpless, we must give in to those that rule over us. But what if we are respected and loved throughout our childhood and youth? That love and respect envelopes and invites us to participate as our true selves. Yet how rare is this?
Those key ingredients are the makings of a self and possibly a leader. It is the foundation if one is to become a leader of Leaders. Only by being oneself and grounded in awareness will lead to that end. The leader I am writing about needs to go well beyond themselves to be a leader of leaders. They are driven to be independent and, for some, to build their own organizations. These people do not give in to other leaders leading them. They must lead themselves.
Hence, they create their own vehicles for living in the world, including businesses and organizations. It is not for power and control over others but to fulfill their own creative needs. Because of who they are, they also want this for others. For them, abusive use of power and influence is out of the question. While they create the environment necessary for themselves, they also create the best possible environment for those in their life.
I had excellent leaders working for me. My inner circles were always comprised of the best of my best and were given the power necessary to lead in their areas of proficiency. This power included leading me when and where necessary. None, including myself, ever attempted to take advantage of our power and influence except to do our best jobs as leaders and followers.
If you read my books, you know I began in ignorance, but experience is the greatest teacher, and I felt I was a good student. My philosophy has always been pragmatic, and all relationships—up, down, or sideways, were always important to me. Instinctively, I made it my job to build those relationships. Somebody had to, and I am not one to wait for things to happen. I make them happen.
Making things happen is one of the essentials that separate leaders from those they lead, who are also leaders within their organization. Leaders who function as sub-leaders below the prime leader also create, but from a relative place of safety in that they are never wholly responsible for what they do. This is not true for the prime leader, the leader of leaders. They are responsible at all times.
Moreover, there are leaders of themselves who have little or no desire to lead others. It is enough being one’s own self in a world that seems to prefer sameness. And there are the leaders within organizations that lead at the beck and call of the “leader of leaders.” They lead, not as leaders of themselves, but as leaders of others. The difference is significant because those led by the prime, leader of leaders are not first and foremost themselves. They are what they are instructed to be, even as they lead.
I never had an employee’s attitude, or to put it another way, I always had my independent streak. I did work for others during the winter in my own fashion. I did what I was asked or told to do but managed to do it in my own way. The stamp of my own personality seemed to come through in just about everything I did.
About six months ago, I was sitting with a dear friend at our kitchen table. He also worked for me and was a member of my inner circle. We were talking about our history together, and he rubbed his fingers together, saying, “I needed this, and you didn’t” He was talking about “wages.” At that moment, I realized I never thought about earning a wage but only about ideas. My focus was always on picturing what those ideas looked like and how they might function.
For example, Lenette and I could see that the parents who visited Camp Shasta and stayed for a few days loved the experience. So we began to think of building an adult facility at camp, to create fun and “learning” experiences for them. We also thought of educational and recreational bike trips and tours in Europe. All of this in the early 60s. As it happened, Las Vegas and its demands changed all of this. But never once did we consider money or profits. In our mind at that time, things like that would take care of themselves. It was, and is, how we see the world.
Back to the kitchen table: It took months for my guest’s moving fingers to form into what he was really saying about the people Lenette and I are. He is a leader, without question, yet he needed me to give him the platform where he could do the leading. Without being led himself, he was only an excellent employee working for wages. That is always the difference between the roles of leaders and the leader of leaders.